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The opening round of the playoffs will begin on Thursday for the Viterra AJHL South Division. Here is a series by series preview of the matchups.
(2) Canmore Eagles vs. (7) Olds Grizzlys
The Canmore Eagles (36-18-6 78 pts) finished second and will play the Olds Grizzlys (17-36-7 41 pts) who finished seventh. Head to head this season the Eagles won all six regular season meetings, but the last three games were in overtime or a shootout.
Matt Forchuk led the Eagles and the league with 97 points while teammate Logan Ferguson was just behind him with 94 points. The top scorer for the Grizzlys this season was Ryley Smith (51 points), Try Thompson was second with 49 points. Unfortunately for the Grizzlys, their top scorer would put them tied for third and fourth on the Eagles. In goal Ryan Bontorin got the bulk of the starts for the Eagles posting a 23-14-4 with three shutouts, a 3.27 GAA and 0.895 save percentage. Backup Thomas Davis was 13-3-2 with a 3.01 GAA, and 0.910 save percentage. On the other side of the rink, Ben Giesbrecht and Andrew Henderson essentially split the time in goal with each goalie appearing in 33 games for the Grizzlys. Henderson was 11-16 with a 3.56 GAA and 0.903 save% while Giesbrecht was 6-18-7 with a 3.79 GAA and 0.869 save%. Matt Forchuk led all players in the head to head meetings with four goals and 10 points, and Logan Ferguson also had 10 points (2G, 8A). Top scorers for the Grizzlys were Chase Olsen with one goal and six points while Austin Holmes had four goals against the Eagles in six games.
Olds can upset Canmore if they can keep an eye and limit the amount of space the Eagles top line and if they can snap their eight game losing streak against Canmore. Key for the Eagles to beat the Grizzlys is just to keep up the momentum they gained from last weekend.
(3) Calgary Canucks vs. (7) Drumheller Dragons
The Calgary Canucks (37-19-4 78 pts) had their best season since 1998-99 as they finished third in the South and will take on the Drumheller Dragons (22-33-5 49 pts). Calgary won all six games during the regular season with the first matchup going to a shootout and the last one going to overtime.
The Canucks did a lot of scoring by committee as Ben Assad and Brett Van Os finished the season tied for the team lead in points with 55 while Matthew Painchaud was third on the team with 52 points. Jordan Taupert led the Dragons with 51 points which were three ahead of Chad Hurtubise (48 pts), Cody Young was third on the team with 46 points. Between the pipes Logan Drackett got the bulk of the starts for the Canucks posting a 29-14-3 record with three shutouts, a 2.35 GAA and 0.918 save%. Backup Caiden Kreitz missed two months but was still able to post a 7-3 record with a 2.36 GAA and 0.907 save%. Hunter Virostek got most of the starts for Drumheller going 16-22-2 with a 4.00 GAA and 0.877 GAA while Dane Dow was 6-11-3 with a 3.73 GAA and 0.881 save%, both guys had one shutout this season. Head to head in the six meetings this season Ben Assad and Parker Ward led the offense for the Canucks with each tallying six points (Assad 3g, 3a, Ward 2g, 4a). Matthew Painchaud and Mark Drohan both had five points (Painchaud g, 4a Drohan 3g, 2a) against the Dragons this season. Scoring was hard to come by for the Dragons in the season series as they would score just 13 goals (2.16 goals per game). Chad Hurtubise (2g, 2a) and Bradley Stonnell (0g, 4a) led the team with four points against the Canucks while Cody Young was third on the team with a goal and two assists.
Drumheller snapped an eight game slide by beating Olds in their last game of the season. It's been a tough 2017 as the Dragons have won just five games (Okotoks, Spruce Grove Oldsx3) and will need their best efforts to derail the Canucks in the opening round. For the Canucks, they finished the season with an 8-4 record in their final 12 games. The Canucks can have a deep run if they continue to do what they did in the regular season and that is to score by committee.
(4) Okotoks Oilers vs (5) Camrose Kodiaks
The final series in the opening round is the four versus five matchup between the Okotoks Oilers (36-18-6 78 pts) and the Camrose Kodiaks (32-25-3 67 pts). It should be the closest matchup of the opening round in the south. The Oilers won four of the six meetings, but two of those wins were in extra time.
Trey Degraaf led Okotoks with 66 points while Tanner Laderoute (57 pts) and Jordan Xavier (54 pts) were second and third on the team in scoring. As for the Kodiaks, Bryson Traptow (56 pts) led the team offensively while Nicolas Correale (42 pts), and Mackenzie Bauer (37 pts) were second and third on the team respectively. In goal Riley Morris got the majority of the starts for the Oilers finishing with a 29-14-4 record with three shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and 0.919 save%. Matthew Armitage had a 7-4-2 record with one shutout, a 2.53 GAA and 0.902 save%. In the other crease, no goaltender faced more or stopped more shots than Patrick Gora who would post a 28-20-2 record with three shutouts, a 2.71 GAA and 0.918 save% in 52 games. Joesph May backed up Gora and put up a 4-5-1 record with a 3.15 GAA, and 0.904 save%. Trey Degraaf led the Oilers with eight (g, 7a) points against the Kodiaks this season. Tanner Laderoute (2g, 3a) and Jordan Xavier (4g, 1a) each had five points. On the other side, Mackenzie Bauer led the Kodiaks with six (4g, 2a) points against the Oilers this season. Teammates Josh Zablocki (g, 3a) had four points while Bryson Traptow and Kyler Kupka (2g, 1a) each had three points.
This series may be too close to call, but the Kodiaks can win if they can right the ship and find their early season success. As for Okotoks, they will be able to win the series if they can continue to dominate the Kodiaks at the Pason Centennial Arena.
Story by Chris Colwell @Cjcolwell